JULY 6 VHS MOVIE REVIEW : PRISONER OF THE CANNIBAL GOD
The list of shocking names to find on the list of Video Nasties is much longer than one might expect. Not quite topping the list, but still managing to generate no small degree of surprise is Ursula Andress, the beauty that kicked Dr. No into hot gear when she emerged, dripping from the sea in that sweet bikini. It's even more surprising to discover that she's not appearing in some accidental entry or case of mistaken identity, but stars in one of the most notorious and BBFC rule-breaking nasty videos every to be included amongst the Video Nasties. Real animals are really killed (or set up to die for the camera), there are disgusting representations of dismemberment (this is no pun... a guy literally gets his "member" removed) and a nasty mix of sex, female masturbation and death, not to mention a drawn out (but actually more unintentionally comical than disturbing) scene of bestiality.
The name of the film? La Montagna del dio Cannibale, which translates to Mountain of the Cannibal God or, as it was released (and banned) in England: Prisoner of the Cannibal God!
It might be even more surprising that sixteen years after her romp with Commander Bond, she's still looking fantastic at the age of 42. Every inch of her, actually. Yes, Ursula Andress gets full frontal naked (and full rearal, for that matter), enjoys a nice bath and body paint job courtesy of some hot, unclothed native girls (who seem to appreciate her as much as ol' James did. More even).
Intersted in another surprising name? How about costar Stacey Keach! Yeah, Keach is our action hero in this here picture and while he's certainly no Indiana Jones, he's not bad. Susan Stevenson (sweet, sweet Ursula) and her brother Arthur Weisser (Antonio Marsina) approach Keach's Professor Edward Foster to help them find Susan's husband Henry who disappeared on a strange island off of New Guinea. In that both Edward and Arthur were partners of Henry's at one time or other, there's a connection for all of them. In that the island they're headed toward is overrun by people-eatin' cannibals, I'm thinking they should probaby say "screw this" and go find another home-boy!
Look, this place has a bigger "No Tourists" sign than King Kong's Skull Island! I mean, seriously, "Mountain of the Cannibal God"? We're talking Popsicle's chance in Arizona that's a friendly place.
Luckily, smack dab in the middle of the place is a Catholic Missionary station (led by Franco Fantasia's Father Moses) with the occasional naked native to share a space with. Unluckily, the place is surrounded by nasty cannibals with nastier masks and nastier appetites. Even less lucky, that particular spot isn't their final destination and cannibal god mountain-climbing they must go! At least they've got fellow adventurer Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli) to glare menacingly at the man-munchers when they rear their hungry heads. Cassinelli would later go on to play Zeus in two really bad Hercules movies. Too bad he couldn't just throw lightening bolts at them or something. It'd make a hell of a crossover. "It's OLYMPUS, MOUNTAIN OF THE GREEK GODS versus RA-RA-MI, MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD! Who will Win? Manolo only knows!"
It's about 43 minutes into the film before Ursula Andress takes off her top, which practically starts an avalanche of nudity from that point on. Speaking of which, Luigina Rocchi's Sura... just... wow! Wow! This is good, because there is a strong need for something to keep the viewer's attention. Keach works hard on adding range to his character of an obsessed adventurer with a vendetta. However, working against his quest are the trecheries of the growing cast of characters and, of course, a veritable army of man-eating, head-hunting monstrous human beings.
While Prisoner of the Cannibal God is, by nature, nothing more than an Exploitation Flick with excesses of the genre written on even some of the more tame scenes, a point is reached in this film when it becomes a parade of excess, some of which is central to the plot, most of which exists solely for the purposes of exploitation. This is too bad because there is an interesting subplot here that culminates in the revelation of just what this "cannibal god" is. Unfortunatley, it's also locked in a sermon about Western Greed invading the great untamed lands and robbing them of their resources. There are a ton of these vaguely preachy moments in Exploitation Vehicles, making crazy excuses for their existence and morality.
The Morality here is interesting to say the least. Director Sergio Martino wrote the screenplay for this often imitated film with Cesare Frugoni. Martino would have you believe that the animal deaths were all so real because he just happened to catch the real thing on film. The truth, however, is that many of these were set ups, caught on film after more preparation than many of these scenes had. A certain Monkey being Fed to a Snake pops into the old head-bone. No matter how long he focuses on the agonizing twisting before the final breath, it's hard not to remember that a weak optical effect was used to cover up the fact that the Monkey was thrown into the snakes' mouth. Some of the same went into the special effects that feature Killer Crocodiles that look almost as real as the dinosaurs from Yor, the Hunter from the Future and the same old rubber-and-meat gore effects that mark and marr the genre on the whole.
Martino's real desire to both disgust at tittilate are pushed to maximum effect in the last half when the film finally lives up to its name(s). Here Martino seems to be using just about every extreme element he can think of to push the boundaries and ensure that viewers will be talking about this movie after the fact. The long, drawn out Orgy (only small parts of which are actually hot) is the showcase for Martino's vision of shock.
This would still be salvageable if it were really good otherwise. Plenty of pretty good films have used exploitation techniques to sell their wares. This one, while enjoyable for some of its merits, is also quite transparent in its liabilities. Fans of Cannibal flicks will find much to enjoy. People who thrill to the concept of seeing Ursula Undressed will also find a lot to like. However, those same people who might find more than a lot to be disgusted by should perhaps just visit the Mr. Skin pages devoted to her. Like the best part of Hell of the Living Dead, the hotness is interspersed with the nastiness. That, folks, is another big reason that this one made the Video Nasty list.
But, when it's hot, it's hot... and when it's not... oh, brother, it's not! Roll your dice and take your chances. Prisoner of the Cannibal God gets Two Stars out of Five. It is what it is, and for what it is, I'm appreciative. But what it is also includes King Kong rip offs, bad dialogue, preachy characters, so-so acting nasty gore and Animal Cruelty. Folks, this is most assuredly not for the ASPCA's catalogue of Pet-Friendly Flicks. Animal Lovers... be warned. The good parts are mostly gratuities and the bad parts are really bad. This is the nature of the B-Movie. Let it B, let it B, let it B, yeah, let it B!